Rickie Fowler Stands Behind Detroit: 'It’s A Lot Of Fun For Me'

It's becoming his new home course.

Will Burchfield
July 01, 2020 - 12:55 pm

Prior to last year, the only connection Rickie Fowler had with Detroit was Barry Sanders, his fellow Oklahoma State Cowboy. And all he knew about the place was what he'd hear, in snippets, from Kid Rock, his golfing buddy in Florida. 

Then the PGA Tour came to Detroit in the form of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and Fowler arrived as the tournament's unofficial host. Over the next few days, one of the best golfers in the world became a spokesperson for a city trying to put itself back on the map. 

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This was partly out of obligation, of course. Fowler has a sponsorship deal with Rocket Mortgage. But when the California kid talked about backing Detroit's rebuild, he sounded like he meant it. His authentic personality is one of the reasons he might be the most popular golfer on tour. 

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is back this year, set to tee of Thursday at the Detroit Golf Club, and Fowler is back in Detroit's corner. He really never left. 

"To have the partnership with Rocket Mortgage, to be here back in Detroit -- unfortunately without fans -- it’s a lot of fun for me," Fowler told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "They’re more friendships for me than just having a sponsor or a logo. We really try to work together with the vision of Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans and Dan Gilbert.

"The impact they’ve had so far in the city and what they plan to do is something that’s very easy to jump behind." 

The aim of this year's tournament is to raise money to help eliminate Detroit's digital divide -- a problem that has been magnified by Covid-19. With nearly a third of its households lacking basic internet access, Detroit is the least-connected city in America. Disadvantaged residents lose education and employment opportunities they'll never get back. 

So the Rocket Mortgage Classic is bringing back the 313 Challenge, which last year was named the 'Best Special Event' by the PGA Tour. If any player over the course of this weekend scores an eagle on the par-5 14th, a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th and a birdie on the par-4 16th, $313,000 will be donated in his name to local youth-focused charities addressing digital access.

That's one initiative of many. The goal is to ensure to every Detroit resident has access to internet, technology and digital literacy training within five years. Fowler got things started on Wednesday by donating $100,000 to the cause. Bubba Watson, another returner to the Rocket Mortgage, chipped in $25,000. 

"There’s going to be plenty of money donated in players’ names this week," said Fowler. "But for me, to be able to be behind a company and to help be behind a city and see the rebuild, it’s been impressive what’s gone on here the past 10 years and to see what their plans are. Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert, they have a lot bigger plans for the future."

Fowler, meanwhile, has bigger plans on the course. He tied for 46th in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic, despite coming in at -9. It will take an elite performance this year to keep up with a field headlined by Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed. 

Fortunately, Fowler has the home-course advantage.